The Imprisonment of Life: Images may fade but they never disappear completely

Yesterday I attended a prayer meeting event for a deceased relative, my wife’s uncle. It was an atmosphere full of mourning and tears. Only a day earlier, one of the most vibrant men I knew, full of life, was reduced to dust and ashes in a matter of minutes.

Although he had been struggling with a lot of health issues for many years, I never heard him complain about life. He was always full of energy, vibrance, and excitement even while his body was not cooperating.

Now he is quiet. And his silence is haunting for his loved ones. Especially his wife and son, who are inconsolable at this moment. Outwardly they show courage, but deep down they feel broken and helpless. While everyone around was telling them to be strong, I had nothing to say except, “I am here if you need me.” And I didn’t use words to convey that message. I sat quietly beside them.

I may not attend birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations, but I never miss such occasions for they remind me of the fragility of human life. That everything comes full circle. What starts has to end and there is nothing we can do to change that.

Your friends or relatives may not like it when you are not a part of their celebrations, but they forget about it sooner or later. They never forget when you are there in their moments of sorrow. That is when they really need you. Is it only during such times that we get to know the people who truly care about us, irrespective of how they are as a person, which is usually based on limited personal perception.

In Sikhs, the prayer meeting is held in Gurudwara (The Sikh’s place of worship), where the shabads (hymns or sacred songs in the praise of the supreme lord) are recited, followed by a small prayer for the peace of the deceased and the well-being of the family members that survive.

For everyone else, it’s eventually going to be business as usual (and that’s okay) but for the surviving family, it is a wound that never heals completely. It may fade with time surely. The image of our deceased loved one along with their memories may fade but they never disappear till we are alive.

It’s been nine years since I lost my father, and still, he shows up in my dreams sometimes. Occasionally I shed a tear remembering him and there is a beauty to that sadness because I feel closer to him now than I ever did while he was alive. I feel his essence within me. I see myself thinking and acting like him sometimes.

Once the veil of the body is gone what remains is the pure spirit or consciousness, so all disagreements and conflicts that happened in the past dissolve in the pool of consciousness for they were related to the body. The higher aspect of why the universe brought us together and why it separated us comes to light with pristine clarity. What remains is love – pure and unconditional.

While listening to shabads, I came across the following verse from Guru Granth Sahib (The holy religious scripture of Sikhism that contains a compilation of the teachings of the ten Sikh Gurus).

O Lord, please forgive your slave now, in this life, so that he may not have to return again to this terrifying world-ocean.

life teachings

This resonates with the teachings of Ramesh Balsekar where he acknowledges that life is imprisonment. Even the Gurus acknowledge that life indeed is an imprisonment that one cannot escape. However, this understanding does not come from a pessimistic and nihilistic viewpoint with an attitude of resignation. In fact, the understanding of the whole process of life itself can be immensely liberating.

You see, the acceptance of life, the way it is comes only through witnessing such events in the light of understanding that life is fragile and a transient phenomenon, which is based on a cosmic law that human intellect cannot fathom. There is no escape from the cycle of pain and pleasure that we experience on a daily basis. In fact, Nisargadatta Maharaj says that pain is the background of all pleasures.

We all know the inevitable. We are going to lose everything in the end, including our own body that we are so attached to. With this understanding, we can make a choice to be more present to our loved ones. Listen to them. BE with them. Nothing else needs to be done other than “being” there for them living each moment to its fullest. This attitude frees us from the painful bondage of resentment, grudges, malice, jealousy, and hatred that we struggle with in daily living.

Even with this understanding, life still remains an imprisonment of attachments and expectations, but with a change in the attitude to life, what seems like simple imprisonment does not convert into rigorous imprisonment, or what the masters say is the tyranny brought about by the thinking mind in horizontal time.

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Jagjot Singh
Jagjot Singh

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